Lesional T-cell subset in leprosy and leprosy reaction

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The T-cell-mediated immune response plays an important role in leprosy. The in situ proportion and pattern of distribution of T-cell subsets in leprosy skin lesions have been studied, but no conclusion could be drawn.


We used monoclonal antibodies for T-helper and T-suppressor surface antigen to define the nature of dermal infiltration in 17 cases of nonreactional leprosy and 20 cases of reactional leprosy.


We found T helper admixed with T suppressor in an aggregated pattern in the granulomas of most cases of nonreactional leprosy and in type I reactional leprosy, but a diffuse infiltrate throughout the dermis of type II reactional leprosy. The T-helper/suppressor ratio was 1.68 in tuberculoid and 1.5 in lepromatous cases. The T-helper/suppressor ratios of borderline tuberculoid (3.11) and type I reactional leprosy (2.54) were not statistically different. The T-helper/suppressor ratio of type II reactional leprosy (5.83) was statistically higher than nonreactional lepromatous cases.


The alteration of the T-helper/suppressor ratio in our study is mainly due to the reduction of T-suppressor cells in the dermal infiltrates, especially in type II reactional leprosy. Further studies of T-suppressor functions may be important in the pathogenesis of leprosy.

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